22 Feb 2011

straight and alert.

Oh no, Uniform Choice lyrics. Don't worry, the topic of abstinence is something I won't be exploring in depth here but it has become important to me.

I know this discussion isn't entirely relevant but while leaving TSB earlier, Alice expressed shock at how much a bag of Monmouth beans had cost her, which made me realize that I have no qualms about dropping a lot of money on coffee. That's probably partly due to the fact that I don't go out and spend any money on alcohol anymore.

Toward the end of 2010, my attitude towards drinking changed dramatically. Compared to 12 months ago I am such a different person in mostly good ways. I think it's important to make decisions and follow paths in life that better you as a person because we are all fundamentally fucking awful and anything that can be done to reduce your unavoidable state of worthlessness should be held on to.

Earlier today I saw this article on the Guardian website about an issue that has been in the news over the past few days: alcohol vs ecstasy.

Britain is attempting to tackle its binge drinking culture and the general public's rising reliance on alcohol by heavily taxing it.
According to some unnamed academics, "the UK's death rate from liver disease is twice the figure of 25 years ago, and double that of Australia".

OH WOW, insult to injury, as if sending off all our criminals to populate it all those years enough wasn't bad enough we're now judging how bad our drinking problem is against Oz. Aside from underhand insults, this stat is pretty scary - "deaths traceable to alcohol between now and 2021 are likely to come in at between 160,000 and 250,000". WELP. You don't have to be a non-drinker to see that there is a whole lot of wrong going on.

I'm not trying to be smug (it's a side effect) and I am far from militant straight edge but I feel so much better since I gave up drinking. I look back at how I was a year ago and it scares me. I'm still sad and lonely and angrier than ever, but now I don't abuse substances in order to avoid the cold, harsh light of reality. I'd rather see everything clearly than hide in the dark.

kaffee uber alles.

21 Feb 2011

black gold

I follow Square Mile on twitter (which is the medium I use for venting my ever increasing frustration and misery so it doesn't appear on facebook) and they just posted a link about the: increasing price of coffee.

I think I am in the minority of people who are happy to pay $6 for something outstanding rather than $1 for crap that makes tastebuds jump off a cliff, but shockingly, the mediocre, burned and sugar-laden beverages that most of the chain shops sell costs about the same as a drink using specially sourced, often locally roasted beans which is made by someone with years of training.

"Growing ranks of middle-class folks in (Brazil and India) are less interested in working on coffee farms and more interested in exploring cubicle life".
Y u condescending tho? I think it's less a case of waning interest in spending all day exposed to the elements picking coffee beans and a burning desire to explore "cubicle life" and more a case of wanting to earn a living wage without having to suffer what I assume to be a fairly physically demanding job.
"Commodity prices going up, however, subsequently drives specialty coffee into the stratosphere, so discerning consumers interested in keeping their afternoon coffee breaks should start reconciling themselves to $5, $8, even $10 cups as they quickly become reality."
 Even I won't spend $10 on a cup of coffee. I can't help but see this as some bizarre form of scaremongering. If anything it will just encourage people to make coffee at home. HOME ESPRESSO IS KILLING COFFEE.


"Buying great-tasting coffee isn't and shouldn't be an act of charity"
Absolutely true. However, people are more willing to buy beans marketed as union or fair trade because it gives them the sense of moral gratification they need to validate the unethical behavior they no doubt enact every day. It's part of advertising's emotional blackmail.

At the end of the day, you have control over what you spend your money on. I am a snob and will drop big bucks on coffee because it's something I get a lot of satisfaction out of and I am lucky enough to be able to afford to fund my habit (partly due to having no social life). If you want to keep drinking shitty diarrhea in a styrofoam cup then be my guest.

Sorry I'm an asshole. Not really #dealwithit.

Taylor Street Baristas, Brighton

TSB, TSB how do I love thee, let me count the ways. When I first moved back I was going in every day which is a little excessive. The baristas who work here are very, very lovely and I've had several informative conversations about coffee with one girl in particular. I like the actual shop a lot too - it's minimalist without being clinical but nowhere near as Brightonified as Marwood (ugh). I think everyone who works there is Kiwi or Aussie...I actually got mistaken for an Australian at one point which is a first. I tried not to be offended...lol jk Australians are great.

Went in with Alice, my best and most cherished friend, for her blog induction before I went to my German lesson. One 3 shot soy flat white and one 4 shot long black later and I was definitely revved up for Deutsche...my tutor possibly thinks I smoke crack now.

The coffee at TSB is always good. I like consistency; it leaves no room for failure, which my life has enough of. Today I wanted to try a pour-over but they didn't have any of the beans they use for those/aeropress. TSB uses Union beans as well as sourcing from other locations and they have 4 or 5 blends to try which is pretty cool.

This is Alice's notebook. She's really into k-pop, as are two more friends of mine Bunny and Jess (bunnybissoux.blogspot.com and nunasknowbest.blogspot.com). Frankly the whole situation confuses me but then again, my current playlist revolves mainly around In Utero-era Nirvana, 80s straight edge hardcore and this amazing band called Milk Music so what the fuck do I know. Anyway, even a philistine like myself can recognize that k-pop x Misfits is pretty great.

Finally - no children or prams today, just a man who's left hand looked like it was rotting. Made a hasty exit for fear of catching leprosy.

19 Feb 2011

Ground, Brighton

I have walked past this place 54897684976 times and never wanted to go inside because it was always so FUCKING BUSY AND FULL OF PEOPLE WITH PRAMS. I don't hide the fact that I believe children should neither be seen nor heard until they are of an age that they can provide something worthwhile to society in any way, even if it's serving me in the video rental store. Infants and toddlers creep me the fuck out and yet are drawn towards me, like fat fleshy moths toward a cold, black flame.

Anyway, Stevie and I go to TSB all the time in our day to day travels so for a coffee date we figured it was a good idea to try somewhere new. 3pm on a Friday meant Ground was pretty quiet and there were zero children, so 1pt right there.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Stevie for a good many years, from the heady days of our punk youths in West Berkshire to shared time living in Brighton. I love that I am still such good friends with so many great people from like, 8 or 9 years ago still. He and I share a healthy misanthropy and general distrust of humanity and life in general as well as a good cup of joe.

The flat white was very good. No Bonsoy but the milk had been textured well and they hit the 'sweet spot' (technical term, google it, I'm lazy). Stevie had an aeropress which he said was ok, we both then had a long black which was agreed to be excellent. Gave me the jitters which is unusual and I take as a good sign. Baristas were cute and friendly, shop is not THAT small and has a back room but there was a creepy old man sat there...can't really allow that to reflect on my rating, though.

Will visit again if the lack of children can be guaranteed in advance.

Cafe Coho

My mum was in town to hang out with my brother and I which was pretty nice as we don't all get to hang out that often. In between a trip to UO (lol we all bought something) and the noodle bar we grabbed coffee at this place. It's next to Marwood which I HATE because it embodies everything awful about Brighton (fake try hard art student/hippie/useless sack of shit artwork and bad coffee masquerading as quality - calling something a flat white doesn't make it a flat white. They often burn their espresso, too).

Anyway, it's a pretty nice looking shop, clean and minimalist inside. Reminded me of Blue Bottle in Williamsburg a little (only aesthetically, sadly, the coffee was good but not THAT good).

They used a different fern in my coffee so it didn't get confused with the cows milk flat whites which I thought was a cute way of making sure there were no mix-ups. Staff were almost over-friendly and very eager to please. Place was dead, I'd go back again to use wifi and try their long blacks. My bro clocked that they use a Gaggia #fuckyeah.

In short: fuck Marwood forever. If I was really gross I'd shit on their doorstep as a sort of dirty protest (people do this outside the movie theater I work at sometimes, kind of weird). If you're in the south Laines then definitely go here.

15 Feb 2011

Flat White/Sacred Cafe, London

(1) Melancholy trip up to say goodbye to my old apartment (2) Frustrating and expensive mission to replace my passport (lost my purse during moving, let the shit rain down on me). 'Make it stop' element to both somewhat lessened by the inclusion of coffee.

I spent ages trying to think of what else SFW could stand for but they were all lame.

So Fucking Weird? I am not 14, I'm not wearing a tshirt that says 'you're just jealous that all the little voices are talking to me' that I bought from Camden Market.

So Fucking Wired is way more suitable. I seem to spend a lot of my life in a state of wound-up alert these days.

 This book is really good. I picked it up used for really cheap. Right now I'm reading the chapter which discusses theories based around how the sex drive and death drive are connected despite the latter being the antithesis of the 'innate' need to 'continue the species'.

Dunno if understanding aggression will help me deal with my own anger issues or allow me to refine my hate even further. I wonder if I need anger management?

Look Mum, No Hands - London

Awful name. Not sure if it's better or worse than Tina, We Salute You (one of the highest rated coffee shops in London despite this)? It kinda fits with the whole bike-courier-Williamsburg-hang-out thing I guess...for better or worse...god what am I saying? I've become everything I hate.

I was in town for the Violent Shitt/Good Throb (both bands RULE, really looking forward to seeing both of them again) show and to see my lovechild/ex roommate Coco. Everyone I called was too hungover to hang out (~smug nondrinker~)so I trekked to Old St to check this place out.

Aside from the personal name-based grudge, I really liked LMNH. It's BIG which is a MASSIVE BONUS because I sat there for 4 hours and didn't feel like I was outstaying my welcome. Milk Bar/Flat White/Nude provide the upper-echelon of coffee and snobbery but they get pretty cramped, especially at weekends, and all close 6pm at the latest whereas this place stays open til 8 or 10pm.

The shop is full of bikes and bike shit which is cool if you like bikes and wanna stare at them. Lots of bike people with small hats and lycra. I basically sat at the window for a really long time waiting to go meet friends, mainlining long blacks (v. good) and reading Blanchot essays on my macbook (wifi! another BONUS). Nice staff. Cheap and quality coffee. Welcoming atmosphere. It's a little 'out of the way' (10 min walk from Old St) but worth it.

Red Roaster, Brighton

Going back a really fucking long time now: when I was living in my first house in Brighton (6 years ago, woof), a friend of one of my roommates from Australia came to crash on our couch for a while. He was called Kirk and was/is a totally awesome guy, I haven't spoken to him in years which sucks. He started working at Red Roaster as a barista and this was my first introduction to foam art - people used to come in and take photos of his coffees. I really didn't give much of a shit cuz I didn't drink coffee back then (what a fool) but it gave me a fond connection to RR.

I went in after I got back from Chicago last and thought the coffee had gone downhill. Maybe I was just spoiled on 6 weeks of Intelligentsia? Pretty weak sauce though.

Now my blood does not run Black Cat anymore (woe) but the coffee at RR has improved drastically recently. I put it down to reintroducing Bonsoy, I swear blind that a good espresso based is ruined by shitty soymilk. I bitched about it to my dad and he told me I should just let these places know so maybe it's time to grow a pair and take my loud-mouthed snobbery public.

I usually get a 3 shot soy latte (no flat whites) on the walk back from the gym as a treat. It's too busy and loud to sit in and full of people with fucking prams and babies and Kemptown freaks. Everyone that works there is really nice though despite the fact the place is always packed out. Also my friend Tash works there AND they run a loyalty card service which is A+


Jeez I have neglected this. I guess the upheaval of moving house and leaving London will do that. I was (and remain to be) sad to have had to abruptly say goodbye to that chapter of my life but shit happens... frequently and in great quantities.

Unfortunately I am not what you could call an optimist, or even positive, so the last month has been a difficult adjustment. However, you gotta make the best of these situations and that's what I'm trying to do.

Anyway, I finally got around to setting up my new espresso machine. My mom generously helped me buy a Gaggia Classic for a xmas/birthday gift. It's a pretty great little machine, I am enjoying experimenting with it.

It took me a little while to get round to buying a good frothing jug so for a while I just tested my espresso making skills. I drink a lot of black coffee now, partly to try not to over-do my soy intake and partly because I really like the simplicity of it. Further adventures with the Gaggia will be documented.